Opinion:Peveto v. Peveto, 2022 OK CIV APP 7
Subject Matter:Land Conveyances
Date Decided:February 2, 2022
Trial Court:District Court of McCurtain County; Judge Wallace
Route to this Court:Appeal of remand to the divorce court to dispose of the marital asset (the couple’s home)
Facts:Four months before their marriage in November 2000, Burl Peveto (Husband) purchased a house with funds supplied by Lori Peveto (Wife). Shortly after, Husband conveyed his interest to himself and Wife and joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Through each transfer and the divorce, Wife remained in the house.
Shortly after Husband’s transfer of the house into joint tenancy, he prepared, executed, and immediately filed a quit claim deed transferring all of his interest to Wife. Three years later, both spouses executed a warranty deed transferring the house back into joint tenancy. This deed was prepared to qualify for a mortgage and was quickly filed. Before it was filed, Husband prepared another quit claim deed (2004 deed) transferring the house into Wife’s name only. For three years the house stayed in Wife’s name until Husband prepared a warranty deed (2007 deed), executed by both spouses, transferring the house into joint tenancy. This 2007 deed remained unfiled in their house for seven years until husband filed it one month prior to filing for divorce. In the interim, between when Husband and Wife executed and filed the 2007 deed, Husband prepared another quit claim deed (2011 deed) transferring his interest to Wife. The Wife then became the exclusive payer of the mortgage and taxes and the 2011 deed was located in a filing cabinet which was not discovered until Wife found it a year and a half after the final divorce decree was entered.Wife denied knowledge of Husband’s estate planning and acknowledges filing only the 2011 deed. Trial court found these deeds to be fraudulent and that the deeds were not delivered.
Standard of Review:Where there is conflicting evidence on an issue of fact, the Court defers to the judgment of the trial court unless such finding is clearly against the weight of the evidence. Mueggenborg v. Walling, 1992 OK 121, ¶5, 836 P.2d 112, 113-114. The Court reviews questions of law de novo. K-Mart Corp. v. Herring, 2008 OK 75, ¶2, 188 P.3d 140.
Analysis:The first question was whether the house was part of the marital estate at the time of the divorce. Property division and retention of individually owned assets are typically addressed in the divorce decree, however, “assets acquired during coverture which are omitted from the court’s division of spousal property in the decree are owned by the party in whose name title was vested before the divorce.” Chapman v. Chapman, 1984 OK 89, ¶11, 692 P.2d 1369, 1374. Wife contended that title to the house was in her name at the time of divorce based on the 2004 deed and there was no need to address the house in the divorce decree. The 2004 deed was successful in transferring the house into Wife’s name only and her assertion is supported by the fact that she remained in the house after the divorce.

In regard to fraudulent conveyances, it is true that a “transfer made or obligation incurred by a debtor is fraudulent as to a creditor…” 24 O.S. 1986 §116(A). However, attempting to defraud creditors does not overcome the presumption of donative intent between the parties to the instrument. Metcalf v. Metcalf, 2020 OK 20, ¶17, 465 P.3d 1187, 1191. Fraudulent deeds did not prevent the transfer from occurring between Husband and Wife. Regardless of whether Husband prepared the deeds for testamentary purposes or to avoid creditors, the property still transferred to Wife as a gift. “[I]n an equitable proceeding, it is incongruous to allow evidence of a fraudulent transfer to rebut the presumption of a gift.” Id. Husband’s fraudulent purposes in executing the deeds does not preclude the transfer of property to wife.

Considering the circumstances and based on Husband’s pattern and practice of filing each of the preceding deeds shortly after their execution, there was no reason to assume he did not intend for the 2007 deed and 2011 deed to be delivered and immediately go into effect upon execution. The burden is on the grantor to show by clear and convincing evidence that the deed was not actually delivered. Abrams v. Neal, 1936 OK 622, ¶17, 61 P.2d 1103, 1105. Possession of a deed by grantee is prima facie evidence of its delivery. Id.  It is presumed that when the grantee has possession of the deed, the delivery of the deed was on the day of execution. Shaffer v. Smith, 1916 OK 441, ¶2, 156 P. 1188. The 2011 deed returning title to Wife’s name only was in Wife’s possession, and Husband’s testimony could not overcome the weight of that evidence. Following the execution of the 2011 deed placing the house in Wife’s name only, Wife exclusively paid the mortgage and taxes on the house. The circumstances and evidence suggested that Husband intended to divest himself of title. Presumption of delivery is not destroyed by a long period of time between execution and recordation. McKeever v. Parker, 1950 OK 344, ¶12, 226 P.2d 425, 428. Even if Wife did not have exclusive title in 2004, she did by 2011 when husband delivered the quit claim deed. Husband had donative intent and passed property title from joint tenancy to Wife’s individual ownership.
Outcome:Reversed. Remanded to trial court to enter judgment for Wife, Lori Peveto.
Vote:3-0. Prince, P.J., Swinton, J., and Mitchell, V.C.J. concur.